The seed for this book took root on 6th May 1968. I was in the metro returning from a hard day’s teaching at a school in Paris. We were driven out of the carriage by heavy tear gas drifting down from the streets above. The following five days saw growing demonstrations and riots, as students campaigned for the reopening of the University of Paris , the Sorbonne. Friday, 10th May became known as the Night of the Barricades. An estimated seventy barricades were thrown up as students and young workers fought the riot police. French trade unionists called a one day strike and demonstrations for Monday, May 13th. It was a massive success. A million people demonstrated in Paris alone. Three weeks later there was the biggest general strike in history.
Why did the idea of resisting grow so quickly? Why did it spread from students to workers? Why are some students and workers apparently immune to the idea of resistance? In time other questions arose. Why do the Christian Churches have so many different attitudes to such things as wealth, usury, and race? How could a country like Yugoslavia suddenly be torn apart by sectarian hatreds? Why are there booms and slumps in police corruption? Why did mainstream science accept racist ideas? Why did the Stalinists retain all the language of socialism while they acted in an imperialist manner in places like Czechoslovakia? This book is an attempt to give an approach which answers these questions.
As a senior mathematics university lecturer with 25 years experience, I know something of mathematical modelling. I also have taught genetic algorithms and genetics to undergraduates, so I understand something of genetics. As an activist for more than 30 years, I know something of the Marxist view of how ideas spread.
By 1998 I had a clear view of the how ideas evolve. For the last decade I have been filling in details. However, every academic or activist needs to discuss their ideas with others. This is especially true when an academic steps outside of his or her field of expertise. Most of the book has been exposed to professional sociological and other critiques at various conferences in Namur (Belgium 1998), Torun (Poland 2001), Istanbul (Turkey 2007), Birmingham (U.K. 2008), and Aarhus (Denmark 2008). As well as this I have given many talks on these topics and have had numerous discussions with academics and activists. You are the judge of whether the work that went into the book was worth the effort.
My share of the book price goes to Children charities in Gaza via Sheffield PSC.
There is a general use of the word evolution. It is the accumulation of small changes. We can talk about the evolution of the universe or the evolution of the sun and so on. For Charles Darwin, natural evolution is defined as descent with modification combined with selection. That is, the offspring of an organism has basically the same features as its parent(s). If two chickens mate, their offspring will eventually, all being well, become a chicken, as opposed to a fox or a bacteria. If there is no inheritance there will simply be a collection of random, probably non functional, organic objects and hence no evolution. However, the offspring will not be an identical copy of its parent(s); there will be modifications. Its beak may be longer, thinner, or shorter. The same can be applied to its legs, wings, feathers and so on. If there is no modification, there can be no evolution. Finally, there is competition for food, nesting sites, mates or whatever else the organism requires. Organisms that are best adapted to the environment will, in general, leave most offspring. Those offspring pass on the successful modifications to their offspring and so on. The process is well understood in theory, and advances in genetic understanding have given massive support to Darwin’s ideas. Today, Darwinian evolution is generally accepted within the scientific community.*
Let us consider what has happened to those ideas. They have spread across the world. They themselves have evolved. Some bits have changed. On a minor level, people often talk about Darwin’s ‘tangled bank’, as opposed to ‘entangled bank’. Some bits get lost through disuse. Few biology courses start with Darwin’s stated view that the Creator breathed life into the first organisms. Vast new chunks have been added. Darwin had no idea why there was a constant supply of modification in biological descendants. Modern geneticists have provided a solution to that problem and a host of others. At the same time there has been a selection process. Some have accepted the modern view; some have rejected the genetic component. The USSR, for a long time, promoted Lysenko’s ‘science' with disastrous consequences. Some people accept evolution in general but reject the idea that human beings have a common ancestor with apes.
Darwin’s idea was replicated with modifications. The modified ideas went through a process of selection. Descent with modification and selection is key to understanding the evolution of ideas.
The tangled brain
In 1976, the similarities between ideological evolution and biological evolution led Richard Dawkins to propose the term ‘meme’, a unit of cultural inheritance, as the ideological equivalent to the biological gene.2 He suggested that a meme could be, for example, the first three notes of a tune. Thus a sentence would be one or more memes. He and his followers have argued that religion is a virus of the mind.
The Bible alone has about 30,000 verses. If each verse contains one meme, the bible has about 30,000 memes. Human beings, in comparison, have about 25,000 genes. The Vatican library holds about 1.5 million books. If each book has on average a modest 200 pages, and each page a modest fifty memes, the collection holds in the order of 15 billion memes. Clearly there must be some repetition and Catholics only need a small subset of these memes to be called a Catholic, but it would be hard to trim the belief system down to nine memes in order to compare it to the HIV virus, which has nine genes. Clearly the analogy of the Catholic religion and a virus is weak.
Saying that Catholicism is like a virus because it can be passed on is a bit like saying a sheet of paper is like a giant redwood tree because they are both made of wood. Some strands of Catholicism led to support for Franco and Hitler. Other strands have led to liberation theology. Religions are fantastic collections of ideas. They are complicated; they evolve; some bits wither because they are no longer useful for survival and new bits get added.
We could opt for a better analogy. We are each born with a fallow patch of soil, our own personal ideological gardens (our brains). Our parents, teachers, friends and others put flora and fauna (ideas) into that garden to grow. Throughout our lives ‘our garden’ changes, depending on what is already there, the alternatives, our life experiences and our conscious choices. The ideas that are currently thriving in our minds we pass on to others.
This analogy has the advantage in that it suggests that a rich flora and fauna exists in our individual and collective minds rather than just a collection of viruses. It forces us to think about how the various ideas interact and evolve. It is also much closer to Darwin’s tangled bank. We can then think of an ideological opponent as someone whose brain is full of an obnoxious weed, like bindweed. This is not as satisfying as thinking of them as sick from a virus, but it is not bad.
The claim of this book is that in order to understand our rich ideological flora and fauna we have to have an evolutionary approach. The first part of the book explores the parallels between biological and ideological evolution. However, there are also major differences. The second part deals with some of the limitations to this approach.
A successful variant of a gene is one that, on average, tends to increases the reproductive success of the host organism. We cannot know whether a gene will spread without consideration of the nature of the host species. A gene (or set of genes) for a long neck may be very useful in a giraffe but not in a frog. Genes for tall, dark and handsome are better off in a human being (some would argue), than in a cabbage white butterfly. Genes for long white feathers are not helpful to your average cod. Having located the gene in an organism, we need to look at the surrounding flora and fauna. A gene for the long neck of a giraffe will only give a selective advantage if there are leaves that can only be reached by long necked giraffes.* The eyes, beak and claws of an eagle have evolved for hunting and catching prey. The long proboscis of a hawk moth cannot be understood without knowledge of the shape of the orchid that it pollinates. Finally, we must consider the physical environment. Fat, fins and flippers are often good for animals in the sea. Lungs and long legs make sense for animals on the land and wings make sense for flying animals.
When we study ideas we need to have a similar approach. Before we decide on whether an idea will thrive in someone’s brain, we need to know what ideas are there already. For example the idea that, ‘Jesus is the saviour of mankind’, would do well with ideas like, ‘God sent his only living son to Earth’, ‘Jesus returned from death in three days’, ‘Jesus healed the sick’ and other Christian ideas. The idea that, ‘There is one God and Mohammad is his prophet’, would fit well with the idea set of Moslems and not at all well with that of Christians. Usually, idea sets come with associated ideas that both defend the idea set and encourage its spread. Consider two idea sets. One comes associated with the idea that converting others is good. The second is identical to the first, but without the associated ‘converting others is good’ idea. In general it will be the former that will win in the battle of ideas.
The second feature is the external ideological environment. From the 1950s, there was a massive civil rights movement in the United States. Its birth, growth and evolution cannot be understood without considering it in the context of the dominant racist ideas of the time. Similarly the feminist movements of the late 1960s cannot be understood without an appreciation of the millennia long oppression of women.
The other key feature in the environment for ideas is the physical environment of human beings. On a trivial level the idea ‘it is sunny today’ does better on a sunny day than in a rainstorm. On a more serious note the idea ‘the world is full of opportunities’ does better in the mind of a young millionaire than the idea ‘the world is run by a set of parasitic swine’. However in the mind of a factory worker in the middle of the night shift the reverse is likely to be true.
My legs are blue because of my genes
There has been a long debate about what is the bigger influence on a human being, nature or nurture? Has the colour run from my blue jeans, or have I an inherited blood disorder? Are we intelligent, gay, or good at maths (or not) because of our genes (nature) or because we were brought up or taught in a certain way. In recent times the nature side of the debate has been winning. Technological advances mean that scientists have incredibly powerful tools to locate and sequence certain genes. Thus there have been claims for a gay gene, a language gene, a rape gene and even a belief in God gene. The claims of socio-biology have also been extensive. Socio-biologists use the method of thought experiments. They consider how humans must have lived in the savannah a million years ago. They work out the genes that would have helped survival. Those genes are still with us. Thus features of human behaviour today can be a genetic relic from those times. Critics believe that socio-biologists look at today's phenomena first. They then invent a plausible scenario in which those phenomena were helpful a million years ago. This process would lead to the belief that today’s transient ideas and attitudes are embedded in our DNA.
The debate has swung so far over to the nature side of the debate that it needs a correction from the nurture side. Human beings have lived in mud huts and skyscrapers. They have lived under democracy, slavery, and absolute monarchy. Their societies have supported monogamous, polygamous, polyandrous and homosexual relationships. Throughout these various societies, with their associated belief systems, our genes are pretty much constant. Clearly our ideas are not too constrained by our genes. Thus the study of our ideas inevitably redresses the balance between the two poles. Maybe after this has been done, we could be in a position to move away from such a crude polar approach and accept that Human society is the result of two interacting evolutionary processes, one biological and one ideological.
The fact that they interact can be best understood by the following case. Ideological and cultural change led some human beings to move from hunting animals to domesticating them. In a society that has domesticated cattle, a human genetic mutation that allows adult absorption of milk (the lactase persistence trait) would be very beneficial. It would allow access to a constant supply of rich nutrients. We would expect natural selection to favour this mutation only in such societies. In a hunting society the lactase persistence trait would have no such advantage. This is born out by modern research.4
Before we start looking at particular cases we should have a look at the theoretical objections or limitations to the approach.
History and culture are a collection of random accidents and conscious decisions. Hence there is no systematic evolutionary process
Accidents happen in the biological world. Many scientists believe that the comet that fell 65 million years ago had a huge impact on life on earth. It wiped out the dominant life forms, the dinosaurs. When, how, and the physics of impact are not in the realm of evolution. However the selection of organisms that could survive the event and the post impact winters are. We do not throw out Darwinian evolution because of historical accidents. Consider a farmer’s conscious decision to graze sheep on a certain field. Biological evolution has nothing to say about that decision itself. Hopefully, economics, psychology and ideological evolution would help us understand the decision. However once the cycle of sheep grazing, and resting the land has been established, botanists and ecologists can predict the sorts of flora and fauna that will thrive.
In the ideological world accidents clearly happen. For example in 1928 Alexander Fleming returned from holiday to find his laboratory in a mess. There were a large number of mucky petri dishes. He dumped some in a tray to be cleaned. One of the petri dishes, un-submerged in cleaning fluid, contained a mould which seemed to have killed off the staphylococcus aureus bacteria that had been growing in the dish. It was a simple accident that changed the face the treatment of infection diseases. The actual discovery was a pure accident. It depended on his holiday, the visitor that he was showing the mess to and the order in which he dumped the dishes to be cleaned. This is not an evolutionary process.
However the discovery came after a string of other ideas, the germ nature of diseases and the recognition that certain compounds did prevent staff growth. His mind was prepared for such a chance discovery. The ideas that he had were the end result of an evolutionary process. Once discovered, an evolutionary approach can analyse under what conditions Fleming’s ideas would and did spread.
The decision of Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat to a white man in 1955 was an individual conscious decision. The readiness of the black community in the Southern United states to struggle was the result of a long and evolving process.
The approach contains a tautology.
If we define the fittest idea set as the one that leaves most copies of itself, then by definition there is survival of the fittest in the world of ideas. Similar comments can and have been made about Darwinian evolution. Such criticisms are wrong. The Darwinian approach enables us to understand left over features like the human appendix, or gills in a human embryo. It explains observed phenomena like the relative frequencies of the light and dark forms of the peppered moth in polluted and unpolluted environments. It also enables us to make predictions. Probably the most famous is to do with the Star of Jerusalem orchid. The flower has a long spur, at the bottom of which lies nectar. Darwin predicted that there must be an insect pollinator with a long proboscis. Twenty years after his death such a moth was identified.
Similar examples can be found with ideological evolution. We cannot understand Christianity’s attitude to say racism and usury without an evolutionary approach.
For a biological organism fitness is usually easy to define. One definition is the ‘expected’ number of copies of itself in the next generation. It is a measure of its ability to avoid predators, find food, avoid death, and find a mate (sometimes) and to successfully breed. The same is true for an idea or idea set. An idea must survive in the human brain at least long enough to replicate itself in another brain (or create a seed in the form of a book or other media). How do we decide before the event whether an idea will thrive in a particular human brain? The following are a few suggestions to identify which ideas are likely, all other things being equal, to survive
1. Ideas which the person directly experiences.
2. Ideas which increase the material well-being of the individual.
3. Ideas which increase the mental well-being of the individual.
4. Ideas which confirm already held beliefs.
5. Ideas derived from a trusted source
6. Ideas which can be derived from existing ideas
7. Ideas which disprove an already opposed view.
All of these need fleshing out. For example, consider mental well-being. Muzafer Sherif did a series of experiments in 1935. He put his subjects in a room to observe a stationary spot of light. In such a situation the spot appears to move. The subjects showed a large tendency to conform to the stated observations of the rest of the group. Other researchers have followed his work. To be a nonconformist can cause stress. Ideas may be selected or rejected because of this facet of human nature.
Not only do they need fleshing out, they can conflict with each other. Only case studies can clarify the process.
The modification in the ideological world is too small; selection cannot operate in this case. *
Suppose someone has an idea and every copy is identical to the original. In theory we must agree that there can be no evolution. However it is very hard to find examples in human history where there this is the case. For hundreds of years Euclid’s geometry was accepted. Any miscopies were simply wrong and were instantly discarded. Euclid’s Elements were held to be universal truths. The idea that they needed modification or that we do not live in a Euclidian universe would have been instantly rejected. The ideas did not evolve for two thousand years. Today we accept that, the axioms he used produced a set of results. Other axioms are equally valid: these lead to different results. The new geometries were evolved from Euclid in the sense that they start with Euclidian type objects, lines, points and parallel lines, and Euclidian type axioms. The philosophical approach was Euclidian. The overwhelming evidence is that we do not live in a Euclidian universe. Imre Lakatos in Proofs and Refutations gives other examples of evolution in Mathematics. Little modification in the reproductive process simply means that evolution is very slow.
The modification in the ideological world is too large; descendants are too different for an evolutionary approach to be useful.
In theory this is a valid objection. Suppose an idea is spreading. Suppose that the recipients accept the idea but only with a mass of random or other changes. We would expect that selection of the fittest would act on the noise and random elements rather than the qualities of the original idea. It is entirely possible that people consciously choose to reject the inherited part. Selection of the fittest takes a very strange turn in this case. Consider the following from The Art Question
They see their predecessors as implying a theory of art that they neatly refute with a well chosen counter-example. In time such counter examples themselves become absorbed into the mainstream and lose their power to shock. They eventually become the targets of a new avant-garde. And so art evolves in strange and unpredictable directions.4
If selection works to reject what is inherited, for the sake of it, then progress seems to be impossible. Modern art is fascinating to experts who understand the processes. Most people do not.
For the case where copying errors are large but random, Boyd and Richardson5 point out that people can take the position I will take the most common view of this. In which case, it is possible that the noise gets lost in the averaging process. It is a process that is very well understood by statisticians. This brings us to the next criticism.
Ideas are held by collectives of people. There is no individual selection and hence no evolutionary process.
Human beings are herd animals. We are not very happy, or mentally healthy, if we get too isolated from others. On some issues we do simply look to the commonly held view. If all of us look at a mass of ideas, and select the dominant one there is no individual evolutionary process. The dominant view will continue. In such situations evolution is either incredibly slow or non-existent. Change may come from a group that is separated from the main population or from a powerful elite. Whenever this is the case the common process of evolution of ideas cannot easily apply. It is a case of winner takes all. Let us look at two examples.
What is the best side of the road to drive? There are a number of reasons advanced as to why people used to pass each other on the left. If a right handed person gets on a horse, they usually put their left leg into the stirrup and pull themselves up. The left hand drive convention means that a horseman, and it was usually man, could stand on the side of the road, mount and be facing the correct way. It has been argued that in a violent world people needed their weapon arm between their bodies and an on coming person. France under Napoleon changed the rule. It has been alleged that this was because he was left handed. As the revolutionary armies swept through Europe they took the ‘driving on the right’ rule with them.
Most of us accept that when in Rome drive like the Romans: well, drive on the right, anyway. Change can come, Sweden switched from driving on the left in 1967, but it was a conscious decision of Government not individual choice. Individuals do drive on the wrong side of the road, but it is usually alcohol induced rather than a conscious act!
The second example is much more serious. Consider the plight of the Vikings who had settled in Greenland. Their society had a well-developed religion and a very sophisticated technology. However it was not well adapted to their environment. The soil was too light for European style farming. There were insufficient metals and fuels for a home-grown metal industry. The Inuit people thrived on a fish and seal diet rather than an agricultural one. The Viking religion, the xenophobia and the language divide prevented the Vikings from learning from the Inuit, and evolving a better way of living in Greenland. Jared Diamond6 describes the how they failed and eventually died out, probably violently.
To restate: If a group has decided to simply accept the dominant view on an issue (or set of issues) then evolution in its individual form does not easily apply. Another interesting example is that of the Hutterite communities in the USA and Canada: see Chapter 11.
There is no randomness in the evolution of ideas
In the biological world, mutations are random. There is modification in all directions. Nature then ‘selects’ which of the variants is fittest in the given environment. Suppose all the modifications were in just one direction. Suppose the next generation all had, say, longer legs. This would not be a function of evolution. It would be a function of where the modification came from. Critics of the evolutionary approach note that the evolution of ideas is not random. It is a consciously driven process. That is all the modifications will be in only one direction.
In answer to this criticism, Robert Boyd and Peter Richardson5 give the following example. A primitive society has started using bows and arrows. The next generation of arrow makers will learn, from their fathers (probably), what materials to use for the arrow and mechanics of its construction. They will consciously look for modifications that make the arrow fly straighter and further. They may alter the feather system, the thickness of stem, the type and shape of flint arrowhead and so on. It is surely reasonable to call this process an evolutionary one. The technique that is the fittest is the one that produces arrows that fly furthest and straightest. It would surely be unreasonable to insist that the next generation blindly create random errors in arrow production then reject those bent in the middle, those with an arrowhead at each end and so on.
It is an evolutionary process but in this case it is a consciously driven one. It is a different process from natural evolution, and it may be that human prejudice, ideology, or religion blocks certain changes. Consider this example from Boyd and Richardson. 7 The crop from an area of land is split between the farmer and the landowner. In theory any proportion can be considered e.g. 1.16:1. Boyd and Richardson argue that human beings have a prejudice for integers. Thus in an area there may be competition between cultural variants 1:1 or 2:1 and so on. These may coexist or one may become dominant. This has been observed and reported on. (They do not take up the interesting issue that the farmers and the landlords have conflicting interests. Hence it is highly likely that the desire for 1:1 contracts will have different proportion of supporters in the two communities.)
The point is that 1.16:1 may be a perfectly good ratio. However, in the human mind, it did not feel as attractive as either of the alternatives 1:1 or 2:1. But we are considering the fitness of ideas in the human mind. It is perfectly reasonable to claim that because of human prejudice for integers, the ratio 1.16:1 will not be selected.* It is not a ‘fit’ idea. This is clearly an evolutionary argument.
Ideas do not always evolve from other ideas. They can simply appear and disappear without evolving.
Perhaps the best example of this is the urban myth. For no apparent reason an idea can quickly spread through a population. It can appear, apparently in its final form spread through the population and then disappear. Consider the USA state of Maine in 1945 before the end of WW2. A rumour shot through the community. A Japanese spy was seen, with a camera on espionage duty.
Why it spread is easy to understand. USA was engaged in a massive war with Japan. This involved millions of people; it was on the forefront of people’s minds. There was a perceived ‘Japanese threat’. There was a huge weakness to the rumour; why would the Imperial Japanese Government send a spy to Maine? In this particular case we know the roots of the story8. A Chinese scholar on holiday had asked directions to a local hilltop for a panoramic view. Parts of the story got lost; he was Chinese and had asked for directions: parts got added; he was Japanese and a spy: at least one part stayed the same; he had a camera. The story did evolve. Each change made the story more likely to spread made it more fit in this environment. Having evolved it spread and then, finally, it disappeared.
There is a parallel in the biological world. We expect sooner or later that a variant of the flu virus will cause a worldwide pandemic. We live in massive conurbations. This means that the airborne spread of viruses is almost impossible to prevent. We know that there are avian flue viruses for which we have little natural immunity. At present only close proximity with a bird can infect us. We know that viruses have the ability to exchange DNA. Sooner or later the avian flu will swap some DNA with an airborne virus. That will be the start of the pandemic.
An evolutionary approach tells us what sorts of flue virus (or urban myth) are able to spread. It cannot tell us the precise details of when and where.*
There is a final note of caution. Ideas about how ideas evolve are themselves ideas. Thus we have a self-referential system. This can cause all sorts of problems.$ We are likely to judge new ideas we meet, in the light of the ideas that we already have. Ideas which re-enforce existing views will be readily accepted. Ideas which contradict existing ideas are likely to be rejected or ignored. Given that, you should know my beliefs at this point. I agree with Marx’s view that ‘the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production’.9 However, we need to go further. Nobody in the Jamaican ruling class wanted a Christian slave revolt in 1831. Very few, if any, of the rulers of the USA wanted a black civil rights movement to blossom in the way it did. The ruling class is powerful, but not all-powerful.
1 Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) Final Paragraph (Originally printed in 1859.)
2 Dawkins, Richard, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976) p189
3 See for example ‘Convergent adaptation of human lactase persistence in Africa and Europe’, Sarah A Tishkoff, Floyd A Reed, Alessia Ranciaro, Benjamin F Voight, Courtney C Babbitt, Jesse S Silverman, Kweli Powell, Holly M Mortensen, Jibril B Hirbo, Maha Osman, Muntaser Ibrahim, Sabah A Omar, Godfrey Lema, Thomas B Nyambo, Jilur Ghori, Suzannah Bumpstead, Jonathan K Pritchard, Gregory A Wray & Panos Deloukas, Nature Genetics, 39, (2006), 31- 40. < http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v39/n1/abs/ng1946.html >[Accessed February 8, 2009 ]
4 Warburton Nigel The Art Question (Oxford: Routledge 2003), p.2.
5 Boyd, Robert and Richardson, Peter, Culture and the Evolutionary Process (Chicago: Chicago Press. 1985)
6 Diamond, Jared, Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed (London : Penguin, 2005), pp178-273
7 Richardson, Peter and Boyd, Robert, Not by Genes Alone, How Culture transformed Human Evolution (Chicago: Chicago Press, 2005), p.84.
8 Kimmel, Allan J, Rumors and Rumor Control [sic]: a Managers Guide ( Mahwah N.J.:Lawrence Erbaum Associates 2004), p.91.
9 Marx Karl, The German Ideology <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01b.htm accessed 8th February 2009> Section Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas [Accessed 16th February 2009]
* Some Christian groups support the idea of intelligent design. They claim that there are objects in the biological world that could not have occurred by natural evolution. However, they have failed to successfully identify such objects. Given the financial and other resources available for the search, this is a huge indictment. Intelligent design also fails to explain such dysfunctional parts as embryonic gills, leg stumps on whales etc.
* There is the possibility that long necks play a part in sexual selection. That is, giraffes find long necks sexy. Such sexual preference would almost certainly be the result of a historic selective advantage for long necked giraffes. Thus the importance of the environmental flora remains key.
* Peter Richardson and Robert Boyd5 and 7 have a slightly different perspective from the one outlined here, but take up many of the issues.
* While the prejudice for integers is strong in most people, accountants have fewer foibles. I would suspect that contracts drawn up by accountants alone would be less restricted.
* A key difference between the ideological world and biological world is that all organisms require parent(s). This is not the case with ideas. However I do not believe that ideas come from nowhere. They arise from the material and ideological world. The Japanese spy story started with facts in the real world. It then evolved.
$ For example the sentence “This sentence is false.” cannot be true, yet neither can it be false.